Iceland Airwaves may well come sprinkled with some life-altering substances. This recent edition of the music festival, which ended on Sunday, was my third one. I’m a relative newbie compared to some people. If you ever get the chance to go, I would highly recommend it. Just be warned: once bitten by the bug, this festival has the capacity to change your life!
Ever since the first one I was at (in 2011), things haven’t been quite the same for me. At that first festival, I saw twice as many Icelandic bands than non-Icelandic acts, probably 75% of which I’d never heard of before I stepped foot in Reykjavik. It started a new musical addiction for me, which focused around all things Nordic.
After my first trip to Iceland, I headed back to Amsterdam, my head buzzing with all the new musical discoveries, my camera full of captured memories. I knew that life wouldn’t be quite the same. How would I cope with the real world, post-Airwaves? It did make me re-focus. And I slowly discovered that I needed an outlet for this new-found fountain of musical talent.
One thing led to another – well, Retro Stefson came to town and ripped up Paradiso with crazy whirlpool dancing and crowd surfing (see here) – and with this gig I was introduced to our very own Nordic Vibes and, soon after, I started writing for the site – my very first article plugging Icelandic acts who were heading to the by:Larm festival in Oslo. Snorri Helgason’s ‘Rivers’ video was the very first one I shared on the site fact checkers.
I was happy. I had an outlet for my Nordic cravings, not only to write about Icelandic artists of course, but also those from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. I aim to give all countries a fairly even spread. I do try, honest. Although it has just occurred to me that it seems I only ever interview people who hail from Iceland – Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir (aka Lay Low), Ásgeir Trausti, Pétur Ben and Þormóður Dagsson (the lead singer of Tilbury) – or have links to it, as with Farao (aka Kari Jahnsen), who recorded her album in Reykjavik with Mike Lindsay of Cheek Mountain Thief.
And talking of Cheek Mountain Thief… In the summer of 2012, a friend of mine Jon Kelly interviewed Mike Lindsay for his UK radio show (The Orange Flavoured Pipe Machine is the name of the show), which led to a whole other story (you can read it here). It was also the beginnings of my foray into radio…although I didn’t know it at the time. Jon tried to persuade me to do a monthly slot on his show offering up some Nordic musical tips, to which I flatly refused. Me? On the radio? It wasn’t a notion that had ever occurred to me. So I tossed it aside.
Until, of course, my Airwaves #2 happened. Once again, I returned home and I wanted to share my discoveries with the world. I cautiously (because I didn’t quite know where this was going to lead) emailed DJ Jon with three music tips and, next thing I know, I’m recording my slot for the show. That first ‘appearance’ on the radio was dedicated solely to bands Icelandic artists: Snorri Helgason (again, yes; I still love Snorri!), Tilbury and Oyama.
Almost a year later, I’m still offering up my Nordic musical tips to the radio gods, although it has occurred to me that I also seem to be biased in my selections for the radio airwaves. Iceland is once again tipping the polls (my most recent tips were aired during Airwaves, featuring Icelandic bands Vök, Hymnalaya and Mammút, can be heard here).
I was going to try and figure out why, although I don’t think it needs much too head-scratching. Iceland Airwaves: you are the reason. So instead of over-analysing it and saying it’s a bad thing that I’m inadvertently leaning towards this island nation as opposed to its Nordic neighbours, I embraced this fact and began to look forward to the new discoveries that Airwaves #3 would hold in store for me!
Music tips from Icelandic musicans
In the countdown to the 2013 edition of the festival, I began by getting some tips from a few of the musicians that I featured online or on the radio in the last year. When I chatted to Ásgeir Trausti a while back, his tip was to make sure to see Retro Stefson. I concur. A Retro Stefson gig is quite the experience – whether it be in a particularly dapper men’s clothes shop on Laugavegur or a party crowd at Harpa.
Þormóður Dagsson (Tilbury) recommended Mammút, who I saw in 2011 but I’ve not heard much from since until I started hearing good things about the new album (a future luistertip perhaps?). A band that was suggested by a few people was our beloved Snorri Helgason (who also has a new album out, on Record Records).
Then we come to the new bands, new to my ears anyway. Magnús Tryggvason Eliassen (the hardest working drummer in Reykjavik, who played during this year’s Airwaves with amiina, Kippi Kaninus, Moses Highwater, Sin Fang, Snorri Helgason, Tilbury and probably a few others – I saw him playing four times, which was only a blip out of his full schedule) suggested Skúli Sverrison, and Pétur Ben had a whole host of new names for me, including: Úlfur Eldjárn, Grisalappalisa, Loji and Mono Town.
Some of these bands I did manage to see, some I didn’t, although this small selection only just scratched the surface of the new sounds of Icelandic talent that surrounded my senses in Reykjavik. One thing seems to be certain – I’m probably not going to be redressing the Nordic balance any time soon, but I will give it a go!
More information about all the bands mentioned in this article can be found on the Iceland Airwaves website here, and reviews of every single Airwaves show can be salivated over here. Advance tickets for next year’s festival are on sale from 1 December. Any effect it might have on your life (or health or bank balance!) will be well worth it.
Disclaimer: I have no intentional bias towards Icelandic bands over other Nordic acts, this is just an observation at this moment in time. I did catch all the Nordic nations at Airwaves (except Finland, I don’t think any Finnish bands were playing??) and to prove I do also select other nations’ tracks, a handy linnk to the Soundcloud set of my radio selections is here. Happy listening! 🙂